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The Courtesan    by Susan Carroll order for
by Susan Carroll
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2005 (2005)
Paperback, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Gabrielle Cheney has forsaken her sisters and their way of life in Faire Isle and set up residence in Paris, determined to become the consort of an influential man. Her choice: Henry, the Huguenot king of Navarre, held prisoner by Catherine de Medici. Gabrielle's plans are well set, but she still mourns Captain Nicholas Remy, the one man who warmed her embittered heart. Remy was murdered during the bloody slaughter of St. Bartholomew's Eve when dark magic was used to quell a growing rebellion. Gabrielle cannot shake the feeling that Remy is haunting her. She often imagines seeing him while she ghosts along dark Paris streets for secret visits with friend and fellow 'daughter of the Earth', Cassandra Lascelles, who is remarkably skilled in necromancy. Gabrielle wants her to summon Remy's ghost and finally put him to rest.

Captain Nicholas Remy has spent the last three years hiring out his services to European barons in return for enough gold to free his King. He's also been keeping a close watch over Gabrielle and has become increasingly worried about her association with Cassandra Lascelles. Remy is well aware of the harm that dark magic can do. When he reveals himself to Gabrielle, she's overjoyed, then angry. How dare he let her believe him dead all these years! And how foolish he must be to believe that he could ever free Henry from the Dark Queen's diabolical clutches. But Remy remains adamant to fulfill his vow to protect and reinstate Henry to his true destiny. Determined to keep Remy safe, Gabrielle agrees to help him with his mad plan. So begins their battle of wits with Catherine de Medici and the witch hunters she sets loose upon the streets of Paris.

The Courtesan picks up many of the plot threads left open at the conclusion of The Dark Queen. Renaissance France comes to life in a sweeping panorama that skillfully blends action, political intrigue, suspense, poignant romance, a hefty touch of the paranormal and a whole new set of plot twists. Carroll has a gift for creating rich and multi-faceted characters, and her two leads fill the requirement, especially Remy, whose idealistic sense of honor cannot be swayed. Secondary characterizations are also well done. Remy's young sidekick and self-proclaimed protector, Wolf, is a wonderful addition to the cast; here's hoping Carroll grants him his happy ending. Also memorable is darkly sinister witch hunter, Simon Aristide. He and the youngest Cheney sister, Miri, will have their own story in The Silver Rose.

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